Coventry City registered consecutive league victories for the first time since October on Saturday as they edged past play-off chasing Bristol Rovers at the Ricoh Arena. Mark Robins’ team put in arguably their best performance of the season and George Thomas scored the only goal of the game late on to silence the 4,069 travelling fans. The result sees Rovers drop to 9th whilst the Sky Blues remain rooted to the bottom of League One.
It has been a miserable season for every City supporter to endure, but it actually felt like a football match today. Brilliant weather, a competitive battle and a proper atmosphere. The hefty contingent of travelling Rovers fans were in fine voice throughout and our supporters raised their vocality in attempt to out sing them. I don’t know whether both sides responded to that level of noise or not, but the first half set the tone in terms of performance down on the pitch.
The reverse fixture was a day to forget as Darrell Clarke’s men ran away with things, but we dealt with their threat well for large parts this time around. Billy Bodin fired his first career hat-trick during that Boxing Day clash, but Ryan Haynes marshalled him expertly to ensure he didn’t repeat that feat. Nathan Clarke was given the task of handling Rory Gaffney and he coped well. On the one occasion he did get beaten by the Irish striker in the first half, the resulting effort on goal by Bodin was diverted just beyond Lee Burge’s far post.
Despite possession being shared, chances came at a premium in the opening 45 minutes. Jodi Jones, a player who was asking questions of Rovers’ defence, saw a free-kick saved by the alert figure of Joe Lumley on 15 minutes. The next real opening to fall City’s way came about with 29 minutes on the clock as Jones countered with speed. After picking up the ball deep in his own half, he proceeded to drive upfield and slot a pass into the path of Callum Reilly. With just the keeper to beat, the midfielder dragged his strike off target. A huge opportunity spurned.
The visitors did apply some pressure on the Sky Blues’ back line and they had two penalty appeals waved away by referee Graham Horwood – the first an optimistic shout for handball, the second a stronger claim as Luke James went down under a challenge from Farrend Rawson. It was Rovers who then began the second half with more intensity, but Lumley was the first keeper called into action as he reacted smartly to deny Stuart Beavon on 49 minutes.
Up the other end just six minutes later, Burge was required to make a superb save of his own to deny Ollie Clarke who had found space in the home area. The resulting corner was then headed towards goal and Gael Bigirimana was on hand to hook the ball off the line – testament to the defensive work City displayed. A period then followed where both teams had spells going forward, but after substitute Byron Moore spurned a chance for Rovers, the hosts began to take control.
The final 20 minutes were excellent and our determination to win the game was pleasing. We sensed an opportunity and continuing to plug away paid off. Our approach play had been vastly improved throughout and George Thomas’ goal was of high quality. Substitute Ruben Lameiras’ neat through ball was pinpoint, but the young striker’s finish was one worthy of winning any game. He is starting to show that he deserves a consistent place in our side and that warrants great credit.
On the whole, this was one of City’s better displays and the three points were merited. We now go into next weekend’s game at Wembley in high spirits and hopefully that will influence things. Of course, relegation remains to be somewhat of a formality, but Robins has seemingly made the lads believe again. I have been adamant all season that they aren’t as bad as our position shows. If only he had been drafted in earlier…
I am now looking forward to hearing over 40,000 City fans standing together as one singing the Sky Blue Song next weekend. After all the agony this season had inflicted upon us, it is a day we deserve. We can’t get carried away, but I feel far more confident of lifting that trophy compared to this time a month ago. Let’s just enjoy it now.
Lee Burge – 8
Jordan Willis – 7
Nathan Clarke – 8
Farrend Rawson – 9
Ryan Haynes – 8
Callum Reilly – 6
Gael Bigirimana – 7
George Thomas – 8
Kyel Reid – 7
Stuart Beavon – 7
Jodi Jones – 7
Dion Kelly-Evans – 7
Ruben Lameiras – 7
Chris Stokes – N/A
Coventry City: Burge, Willis (C) (Di. Kelly-Evans 63), Clarke, Rawson, Haynes, Reilly, Bigirimana, G. Thomas, Reid (Stokes 86), Beavon, Jones (Lameiras 76).
Unused Substitutes: Charles-Cook, Turnbull, Vernam, Stevenson,
Bristol Rovers: Lumley, Brown, Burn (Harris 66), Lockyer (C), J. Clarke (Leadbitter 45), Lines, O. Clarke, Sinclair, James, Bodin, Gaffney (Moore 45).
Unused Substitutes: Mildenhall, Mansell, Easter, Montano.
Attendance: 11,946 (4,069)